UnderCover Waitress: Regurgitation

Monday, April 23, 2012


School is winding up for the semester and I am extremely busy getting projects finished. Therefore, I am regurgitating resuscitating bringing back an old post from the very beginning. The moral of the story is that waitresses know when you are lying to them. Really.

Under Cover Waitress: Food Allergies and Restaurants

Food Allergies and Restaurants

Somewhere, in some "foodie" magazine, some writer must have been on deadline.
Writing to the entitled yuppie masses, he advised people who don't especially like
certain foods or ingredients to bold-face lie to their waitress and claim to have a
food allergy. While customers who lie are responsible for their behavior,
this writer owes the entire restaurant industry an apology.

Food Allergies are Serious

Real food allergies kill people, and some food allergies are not common.
For example, am acquainted with a woman who is allergic to strawberries.
She was served cake with "raspberry" filling in a restaurant and was rushed
to the emergency room. (This was years ago and I am happy to report she is fine.)
Nut and peanut allergies are so severe many schools now have "nut free zones"
in the cafeteria.

When restaurant customers claim to have a food allergy, the kitchen must be alerted.
They must either clean and clear a safe area, or alert the customer about possible
contamination in the food preparation area.

Bad Customer Behavior in Restaurants

There are many reasons customers should not lie to waitresses:

  • It is morally reprehensible.
  • It causes a massive inconvenience to the kitchen.
  • A good restaurant will accommodate food preferences, within reason.
  • Waitresses know when they are being lied to. Really. Be embarrassed. 
Some of my favorite memories of liars: 

* Carrot allergy: does not want carrots on her plate or in her salad. Ordered lentil soup. 
Soup is full of carrots. Response: oh, but its okay 'cuz they are small and cut up. 

* Shellfish allergy: decided to eat shellfish. 

* Me: are you allergic? Woman: Uh....okay, yes? Me: Don't lie to me. 
Woman: No, I'm not allergic. 
Good Customer Service

If a dish can be prepared without the olives that you detest but are not allergic to,
any good restaurant will accommodate your request. If they can't because it was
made ahead of time, order something else. If they won't because the chef is in a
mood today, eat somewhere else. A good restaurant will be happy to accommodate
your preferences. 

Real Food Allergies

To those of you with real food allergies, please, please, PLEASE tell your server that
upfront. It is not possible for restaurants, especially good ones that make your meal to
order, to list every single solitary ingredient every time. 

Served dessert to a woman who was incensed that there was raspberry sauce on her plate.
She never mentioned a raspberry allergy. When I asked her if she was allergic to anything
else, she gave me a dirty look. 

Bottom line: your server may not like you but she does not want to kill you.
Tell her your allergies and avoid anaphylactic shock. 

And whatever you do, do not lie to your server. 


  1. I take food allergies VERY seriously. Thank you for this post. I had a lady at Chili's tell me her son was allergic to olives after he had eaten a shit ton of them AS A JOKE. (Link here: https://fuckmytable.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/gather-round-kiddos/) It was not funny in the slightest and it really pissed me off. I was about to call an ambulance. People joke about it but people with real food allergies can die under the right circumstances, so it's not something to be taken lightly.

    1. OUCH. I would be furious, as well. I like to think I have a sense of humor, but that is not funny. Allergies are serious, and if a customer made me think I had just killed someone, I wouldn't be laughing. Grossly inappropriate!

  2. had a lady in recently (not my table thank god) that ordered a dish "Shrimp Pasta" and after it came out and she speared a shrimp she told her server she was allergic. I couldn't believe it, it isn't like the dish was "Seafood blah blah" where she had to read to see whether shrimp was in it or not. According to the server she kinda apologetic about the whole thing.

  3. I appreciate your post... we have a child who is severely allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. We are very careful to check with restaurants before even going to them, and then visit with the manager before being seated. We would rather deal with any complications before than in the midst of ordering.

    It is very frustrating when people who have food sensitivities or intoleranances claim to have a food allergy. Their inaccurate claim really muddles the medical term "allergy." Here is a link to the definition, which is applicable to any type of true allergy:

    People without food allergies are understandably ignorant. When I was single, I dated a guy who is allergic to shellfish. The first time we went out on a date, we went to an Asian restaurant. He spoke at length with the owner, who was able to prepare a wonderful, safe dish. My date gave me a crash-course about his allergy and showed me how to use his epinephrine and syringes, in case they were needed. I had never before met someone with a food allergy, so my learning curve was practically vertical! :)

    Please understand that people with true food allergies can have symptoms ranging from very mild to fully anaphylactic. Because of this, one food-allergic person might not be concerned with cross-contamination in the restaurant kitchen, while another food-allergic person will not even go to a restaurant which serves their food-allergen.

    The bottom line is that if a person has a true food allergy, they need to speak up right away so that the restaurant staff can, if possible, take the necessary steps to help that person eat safely.

    After that, however, it really is the responsibility of the food-allergic individual to choose what they will or will not eat. Knowledge (of the inner workings of a restaurant each time one visits) is power. :)

  4. Correction to the second paragraph of my post above... "intolerances"

    This link explains the difference between food allergy and food intolerance:


    1. Thank you, Oscar Mouse, for the clarifications. There are interesting and detailed differences in allergies, intolerances, etc.

      Also, I appreciate your speaking up that it really is the responsibility of the diner to alert us if they can't eat something. I have known people to take the attitude that it is the restaurant's responsibility to list every single solitary ingredient, which is truly asking too much when things are made to order by artisan chefs. It is amazing how people seem to feel that a shellfish allergy is some confidential health information covered by HIPPA, and its a big secret. It won't be a secret anymore when they go into anaphylactic shock.

      If somebody doesn't like tomatoes, I prefer that he simply say that, and ask for no tomatoes instead of lying and saying he is "allergic." If you just don't like them, the kitchen doesn't have to worry about killing you.

      Regarding allergies, intolerances, etc., if you can't eat something because it will make you sick, I don't care whether you use the word "allergic" or not. I just need to know what you can't eat, and if the kitchen needs to clean an "ingredient free" area.

  5. I had some sort of reaction -allergic or whatever- to a Chinese dish years ago. Not to the point where it was dangerous, but some ingredient along the line didn't agree with me. I'll tend to order carefully if I'm eating Chinese.

    1. Hey William,
      Wonder if it was MSG? Some Chinese restaurants use a lot of it, and some people react to more than trace amounts of MSG.

  6. This is one that upsets me, when people lie to me. If you really, really hate something, tell me that. I've had at least 5 different people lie about allergies to me. I've had their dining guests call them out on their lie (that was funny) and have even confronted someone about it.

    Customer: "He's allergic to tomato, make sure no tomatoes make it on his burger."

    Me: "Well the sauce has tomatoes in it, so I won't put that on there too."

    Customer: "Oh no, that's fine. He just won't eat the burger if it has tomatoes on it."

    She wanted me to slow down the fast food line to scrub my hands (I was assembling burgers at the time), sanitize the area, basically make a longer wait during the lunch rush because she couldn't be honest and say "Please no tomato, he despises them." I take that serious too.


Please share your thoughts.